On the 2nd of January, the Nigerian government stated that they would be blacklisting degree qualifications from Benin and Togo. Just one day later, they announced plans to extend the blacklist to all university qualifications from Kenya and Uganda.
Nigeria’s education minister, Tahir Mamman (pictured above, centre), says that the blacklist of degrees from these countries is an attempt to protect Nigeria’s employers from hiring unqualified individuals. But why and how has this blacklist come about?
Why is Nigeria blacklisting degrees?
Kenyans will empathise with Nigerians here: Nigeria has a serious, and historic, fake degree problem. Months after we discovered that the now-infamous Brian Mwenda had risen to the rank of advocate for Kenya’s high court without ever having sat a law degree exam, Nigeria’s own fake degree scandal is erupting, with international ramifications.
On the 30th of December, a report was published in the Daily Nigerian, illustrating just how easy it was for Nigerians to obtain fake degrees. In just six weeks, journalist Umar Audu managed to secure himself a four-year bachelor of sciences degree in mass communications from a university in Benin. He did so without ever leaving Nigeria, and certainly without studying for any exams.
The report travelled widely, and quickly. Hence the quick government response. Just 3 days after Audu’s report, all degree qualifications from universities in Benin and Togo no longer qualified for Nigerian government acknowledgement.
These two countries are, according to Vantage Media journalist Palki Sharma, “known as hubs for the fake degree trade.”
The next day, the 3rd of January, Mamman announced that degrees from Kenya, Uganda and Niger would join the list.
What does this move say about Kenya’s perceived integrity and it’s education system?
In November of last year, the annual KCPE results day brought about it’s usual furore. Soon after the nation-wide examination results were announced, allegations of irregularity were widespread.
Students and teachers alleged all manner of impropriety of the KCPE accreditors. Students from the same schools managed to achieve exactly the same grades across different subjects. Certain students reportedly received grades for subjects their schools didn’t even provide for.
Kenya’s education system, and any notion of integrity it may once have aspired for, is non-existent. We shouldn’t be surprised that Nigeria had us on its list when it came to blacklisting countries producing fraudulent education qualifications.
What may be surprising is how high up on that list Kenya features. After Nigeria banned its notorious neighbours, it was Kenya and Uganda that was blacklisted next.
Nigeria’s battle with fake foreign degrees is nothing new. In fact, in 2018, Nigeria brought into effect a similar blacklist following a similar exposé-induced scandal. Then, the countries that were blacklisted were Benin, Togo, Cameroon and Ghana.
In 2018, Kenya didn’t feature. Today, it does, and it does so as one of two countries considered worthy of blacklisting just after the notorious “hubs for the fake degree trade”.
This is telling. Not only is Kenya’s reputation bad, it seems to be worsening.